Persistence of vison…phi phenomenon? Can’t a girl just eat some soup?

One of my favorite takeaways from learning about animation was persistence of vision. Persistence of vision says that when light strikes the retina of our lovely eyes, our equally lovely brains hold onto that light (and the image of whatever those retinas happen to be staring at) for a split second. As a result, the single frames of a movie or each individual page of a flip book are retained by the retina long enough to give the optical illusion of continuous movement. Simply put, our ability to enjoy watching an animation or film is all thanks to the sly trickery of our eyes and brains. I always loved this theory, though admittedly that’s partly because it sounds so darn cool. Sadly however, I’ve found that persistence of vision is considered by some to just be part of the answer or even totally disproved. Not to say that everything I just said above is totally untrue but an equally bold sounding theory, the phi phenomenon, is the one that a lot of folks give the credit to. The phi phenomenon says that when we look at a still image (again like that single frame of a movie or those pages in the flip book), our minds trick us in to seeing continuous motion if that same image is shown rapidly with other images. So there’s still some sly trickery going on…it’s just our minds more so than our eyes. That’s comforting right?

If you search on the Internet for a hot minute, you’ll find a plethora of info on both theories and I’m not sure that I’ve explained either all that well in one paragraph. I’ve included Wikipedia links for both in the italicized words above that go into in WAY more detail. I’m not the only one trying to make sense of which to go with either apparently as, in my own Internet searching, I stumbled upon a quick post about the two from another WordPress blogger – check out a fellow named Danwen’s break down of the two here.

But don’t worry dear persistence of vision, you’ll always have a special place in my heart….because you’re the one I first learned about in school.

Regardless of what name you give for the reason individual pictures can meld themselves into a character’s movement, what a wonderful thing that it happens! And of course the more pictures one has, the more fluid the movement. But what if you just start with, say, just eight pictures? Such was the case with a very short and simple animation idea that I had on started a long while back. With just eight drawings I sketched out on index cards of a girl eating soup, I decided to put this character finally to life since the only life it’s really had is my email avatar. So I scanned those eight pictures into the computer…


Six of the eight original images drawn on index cards.

 …and did a little tweaking in Photoshop. The last picture was turned into a few separate ones, so I ended up with nineteen individual images all together.


Adding a little color and such….

And with the help of Easy GIF Animator (this one seems to work best so far when it comes to posting on WordPress), I ended up with a very short little animation. Now this animation is admittedly not the best it could be and is also a test to see just what can happen with a few pictures – but at least the girl who only existed on index cards can finally start eating her soup! And it’s friendly soup too – you’ll see.




Filed under The Dry Erase Board

3 responses to “Persistence of vison…phi phenomenon? Can’t a girl just eat some soup?

  1. Maybe you should try reducing the time each picture is displayed in the gif. That would make it a bit more snappy.

  2. Thanks – I started off that way but she ended up shocked before anyone would barely been able to tell she was eating (which of course having more than just a few pics would correct). will probably try out some different editing options too, though I have to say, Easy GIF Animator has been pretty awesome as a starter.

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